What is it like to be in a plane? [VIDEO]

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

Shannan Chou has been dreaming of flying the jet under the stars since childhood.

The Chinese-American filmmaker, who now lives in Taiwan, wanted to learn about the history of aviation in the new country of Taiwan when he was working on a video series last year.

It wasn’t difficult to find stories about Taiwan’s colorful aviation industry, from the era when Chinese Taipei, named after the rule of the late Chiang Kai-shek, was the island’s main air hub, to its founding as a republic in 1949.

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It’s also a story Chou wanted to dramatize — he told CNN he wanted to write a movie that transports viewers to a tale of Chinese Taipei from centuries ago.

“Of course, it’s not exactly possible,” says Chou. “But I couldn’t resist the story, and I wanted to tell this story.”

Trying to highlight Taiwan’s unrivaled air hub heritage and its prominent contributions to Western aviation, the project was funded by Huang Keng-fu, the non-profit organization that was tasked with transforming the airfield in front of Taipei’s presidential palace into Taiwan’s first new international airport in over 40 years.

All aboard

As part of their research for “Maung Kaisan Lao,” Chu and his team found aerial photographs, university research papers and war diaries that explore Taiwan’s aviation history.

While some of these records are not a fit for a film, Chow kept in mind how an aircraft is seen by people — and in ways that are unimaginable in the modern era.

Most of the photographs, for example, were taken during nighttime by World War II aircraft. Chou says he used these to create a nostalgic and alien atmosphere for the film.

An early advertisement for Taiwan’s first airline in 1949. Courtesy Shannan Chou

“As a film crew, we were in black. We basically made the flying characters disappear and create a fantasy,” he says.

Since it’s a documentary, Chou says his team tried to blend their real-life investigations with convincing CGI.

“Our creative editing style was very soft so people would be more open to our story,” says Chou.

‘Tutu Isle’

It’s fitting that Taiwan’s national airline, China Airlines, has been a supportive partner. The airline has previously featured Taiwanese aerospace icons like aviation pioneer Ingo Gerasimoff in its advertising campaigns and also sponsored some of the research that was used to create “Maung Kaisan Lao.”

China Airlines has made generous donations to the film project, helping with the crew’s travel budget, and even matching the launch of their first national campaign, the “Tutu Isle.”

A flyer from China Airlines’ inaugural flight to Taiwan. Courtesy Shannan Chou

China Airlines expects the film will provide a boost to their brand. The airline’s acting CEO, Lu Yen-hsun, says the film has served as a springboard for China Airlines’ marketing.

“Right now, we’re trying to expand our advertising to help attract more international customers, especially in Hong Kong and Mainland China. The film helped us in generating curiosity for other international customers,” he says.

But even if the airline doesn’t reap much benefit from the film, it doesn’t mean the crew isn’t grateful. They especially enjoyed a meeting with the official of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Lu, who attended the film’s premiere in Taipei on May 31, told CNN he has been especially inspired by Chou’s passion and talent.

“This project has been really inspiring to learn about the history of Taiwan’s air force,” he says. “And Shannan is a smart and sincere man. When I asked him whether he wants to direct a pilot training film, he said he would love to but says that he is very busy and feels that he would be unable to fulfill his dream.”

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